Major crisis was averted in Onitsha as efforts by Court bailiffs to execute judgement order of court of competent jurisdiction on a businessman, Chief Ngozi Okpagu and his firm regarding Niger Bridge Head Asaba Bound Park otherwise known as NIWA Park was nearly frustrated by Okpagu and Police officers from Fegge Police Station in the commercial city.
In suit no. REV/O/MISC 05/2023 between Onitsha South Local Government Vs Chief Ngozi Okpagu & J.N. Okpagu & Sons Nig. Enterprises Limited, the Local Council had prayed the court for various reliefs, including payment of accumulated debts amounting to over N8Million and an order restraining the Defendant and his company, agents and privies from interfering in the operation by the council in the management of said NIWA Park.
It was a heated debate between the Police Officers from Fegge Police Station who Chief Okpagu mobilised to thwart the court order and the chairman of Onitsha South Local Government Mr. Emeka Orji and two bailiffs from the court who insisted that the order of the court must be obeyed and enforced.
As tension rose, our correspondent learnt that the Commissioner of Police had intervened to direct the Police Area Commander Onitsha to enforce the order of court of competent jurisdiction advising the aggrieved party to go to court.
In the meantime, Chief Ngozi Okpagu and his company had also applied to the Magistrate Court to quash the order of court.
When interviewed in the Park, Chief Ngozi Okpagu claimed that the National Inland Water Ways Authority (NIWA) and the Onitsha South Local Government gave him permit to operate in the said Bridge Head Asaba Bound Bus Park Onitsha.
However, the interim secretary to Onitsha South, Barrister Paul Achala countered that the purported NIWA permit has been suspended by NIWA authority since 2021.
He argued that NIWA has no statutory authority to tamper or give permit to private individuals or private companies to operate Parks and Markets at the bank of any river in Nigeria especially on lands that are over 100 (One Hundred Meters from the River Bank).
The Local Council Secretary insisted that NIWA is not the host landlord /family of the entire land along the creek of River Niger rather they have what is called Right of Passage or Easement without any title attached to it and it is 100 meters away from the creek.
“They cannot allocate that Right of Passage or Easement to anybody because such power or authority does not reside with them. Interestingly, the same Act which recognized the Right of Passage of 100 meters, also recognized the host, landlord/family as the owner of the rest of the land that are not within the right of passage . OGBO Family of Umuase Village, Onitsha are the host Community of the NIWA Park and the family land owners are against Chief Ngozi Okpagu’s operation in the Park”.
Achala further revealed that the permit which Chief Ngozi Okpagu claims was given to him to operate at the NIWA Park by the past Local Government chairman had long ago expired since 2018 and was not renewed.
Besides, the current Local Government chairman has duly and legitimately revoked the permit on July 14, 2023 as the Council is entitled to do.
Fuming and agitated, he asserted that Chief Ngozi Okpagu and his company has no vestige of legal or equitable right in the so called NIWA Park
He appealed to the Inspector General of Police and President Bola Tinubu to prevail on the Police Officers in Onitsha especially DPO Fegge Police to stop intimidating and harassing Onitsha South Local Government officials and by extension the Anambra State Government as Nigeria is in a democratic dispensation where the Rule of Law must prevail and not in a military regime.